Grounding netnography: tapping into the Noosphere of the Solomon Islands
Geoffrey Hobbis (University of Groningen)
Paper short abstract:
Looking at human-computer interactions holistically, on-site and on-line, this paper enquires into the multiplicities of human experiences with (digital) information-communication technologies and media in rural and urban Solomon Islands today.
Paper long abstract:
For most of its history the noosphere - the geological epoch of human cognition - of the Solomon Islands has been in the immaterial form of oral traditions. Material tracings of such thought exist in the limited work of folklorists, the archeological record and some modes of communication such as 'talking drums' and conch trumpets which continue to this day. This has radically changed with the introduction and recent widespread accessibility of digital technologies, especially but not only in the form of mobile phones. By using an object-centric approach to all media - digital and analog - collected in Gwou'ulu Village, Malaita, and in the capital city, Honiara, during a one year period of ethnographic fieldwork the purpose of this paper is to examine the human-computer interface holistically looking at on-line and on-site experiences with digital culture in Solomon Islands today. In this context I will specifically discuss the methodological implications of 'on-line only' and/or 'on-site only' ethnography in comparison to a grounded netnographic approach. I argue that the advent and rapid adoption of digital communication technologies in the Solomon Islands represents an explosion of data relevant to any seemingly 'on-site only' research. It constitutes an imperative on the part of researchers to look at the world through the heterogeneity of experiences with digital information communication technologies and media. The digital divide is not one gulf to bridge but a nuanced and complex "zomia" of chasms particular to the context being studied.
Real and/in virtual: from on-site to on-line ethnography